McCrory returns to the heart of the Antrim defence

Simon McCrory returns to pivot the Antrim defence for Sunday’s National Hurling League Division 2A season defining clash with Westmeath at Corrigan Park. The St John’s stalwart has missed the opening league defeat to Kerry and the win over Meath last time out due to a hamstring injury but he has been passed fit for Sunday.

McCrory’s inclusion is one of a few changes made by the Neal Peden and his selectors with Nicky McKeague returning after suspension and Kevin Rice making a comeback, after also suffering a hamstring strain. McCrory will move to centre back with Matthew Donnelly moving to wing back, which sees Ronan Molloy move to the bench.

Team captain Conor McCann, who was on the 40 for the win over Meath, moves out to midfield to partner Nicky McKeague, who is making a return after serving a one game suspension. This new partnership in the middle of the park sees Conor Boyd and Sean Duffin drop to the bench while Kevin Rice comes in at wing forward with James McNaughton moving in the centre-half-forward slot.

Antrim full forward Kevin Rice will be back in action during for Sunday’s league clash with Westmeath in Corrigan Park

That means that the full-back and full forward lines, who started against Meath remain the same with John ‘Rocky’ Dillon flanked by Stephen Rooney and Phelim Duffin at the back and Keelan Molloy flanked up front by Eoin O’Neill and Ciaran Clarke.

When Antrim suffered defeat to Kerry in their opening game at Corrigan Park three weeks ago it meant that it was going to be an uphill struggle to qualify for the league final, and subsequent promotion. Ideally it would have suited Antrim better if Kerry had gone on to beat Westmeath in the second round fixtures but the midlanders travelled to Tralee and came away with the both points. With Kerry now having the edge on Antrim due to their head to head game, the Saffrons simply can’t afford to lose out to Westmeath on Sunday or their promotion hopes will have gone, barring a few very unlikely results. So a win on Sunday is vital.

Dunloy’s Nicky McKeague returns to Antrim colours after missing the Meath game due to suspension.

There is of course some good news as far as the strength of the panel is concerned with St Enda’s Joe Maskey and four of the six Cushendall players returning to training. Quite understandably the management have kept faith with the players who were in action through the Kehoe Cup and the start of the league but it is nice to know that they can call on the likes of Neill McManus, Eoghan Campbell, Joe Maskey and co. if needed. James O’Connell of Cloney Gaels also returns to the bench after injury.

The Antrim team to face Westmeah is –

Ryan Elliott Rian Mac Uileagóid Cú Chullain
Stephen Rooney Stiofán O Ruanaidh Naomh Pol
John Dillon Sean O Diolun Fanaithe An Gleanna
Phelim Duffin Feilim O Duifinn Cú Chullain
Matthew Donnelly Maitiú O Donnaile Mac Uilin
Simon Mc Crory Siomon Mac Ruairi Naomh Eoin
Conor Mc Hugh Conchuir Mac Aodha Roibeard Eimeid
Conor McCann Conchúr Mac Cana Ciceam an Creagán
Nicky McKeague   Cú Chullain
Nigel Elliott Nigel Mac Uileagóid Cú Chullain
James Mc Naughton Seamus Mac Neachtain Na Seamroga
Kevin Rice Caoimhin O Maolchraoibhe Ciceam an Creagán
Eoin O Neill Eoin Ó Néill Cú Chullain
Keelan Molloy Keelan Maolmhuaidh Cú Chullain
Ciaran Clarke Ciaran O Cleirchin Mac Uilin
Kurtis Mc Greevy Kurtis Mag Riabhaigh Naomh Gall
Connor Patterson Conchuir Mac Phaidin Oisin
Sean Duffin Sean O Duifinn Tir Na nOg
Conor Boyd Conchúr Búiteach Mac Uilin
Donal Mc Kinley Dónall Mac Fhionnlaoich Na Seamroga
James O’Connell   Clooney Gaels
Connor Laverty Conchuir Mac Laibheartaigh Naomh Brid
Ryan McCambridge   Ruairi Ogs
Neill McManus   Ruairi Ogs
John McGoldrick   Naomh Eanna
Eoin Campbell   Ruairi Ogs

South West Draws 2019

The draws were made for the various South West competitions on Monday evening in both juvenile and adult competitions.

In the premier event, the O’ Cahan cup the holders of the silverware, Kickham’s Creggan were awarded a bye in the opening round as did Tir na Nog, Ahoghill, Aldergrove, and Glenavy.

Only three games are required to decide the remaining quarter finalists but although all look attractive the meeting of the reigning county champions, Cargin and St Mary’s Aghagallon looks the pick.

Moneyglass will cross swords with Rasharkin in an opening round encounter whilst Casement’s will play hosts to All Saint’s to complete the first phase with the winner faced with a trip to Creggan in a quarter final assignment.

The team which emerges from the Cargin Aghagallon clash are to be favoured with home advantage in the quarters where they will play hosts to the men from Glenavy.

The full draw is as follows ;

O’ Cahan Cup

1 Tir na Nog (bye)

2 St Mary’s Ahoghill (bye)

3 Kickham’s Creggan (bye)

4 St James Aldergrove (bye)

5 St Joseph’s Glenavy (bye)

6 St Mary’s Aghagallon v Erin’s Own Cargin

7 St Ergnat’s Moneyglass v St Mary’s Rasharkin

8 Casement’s Portglenone v All Saint’s Ballymena

Qtr finals

A 2 v 4

B 6 v 5

C 3 v 8

D 1 v 7

Semi finals

B v C

D v A

Mc Cormick Cup

1 St Mary’s Aghagallon (bye)

2 Cuchullian’s Dunloy v St Patrick’s Lisburn

3 St Ergnat’s Moneyglass v St Comgall’s

4 St James Aldergrove v St Mary’s Rasharkin

5 Casement’s Portglenone v Erin’s Own Cargin

6 St Enda’s v St Mary’s Ahoghill

7 Creggan v All Saint’s Ballymena

8 St Joseph’s Glenavy v Tir na Nog

Laverty Cup (Under-18)

1 St Enda’s (bye)

2 Tir na Nog (bye)

3 St Comgall’s Antrim v Cuchullian’s Dunloy

4 Casement’s Portglenone v Kickham’s Creggan

5 All Saint’s Ballymena v St Joseph’s Glenavy

6 St Ergnat’s Moneyglass v Con Magees Glenravel

7 St Mary’s Rasharkin v Erin’s Own Cargin

8 St Joseph’s Glenavy v Tir na Nog

Qtr finals

A 2 v 5

B 8 v 4

C 3 v 7

D 1 v 6

Semi Finals

D v A

C v B

Breslin Cup (under-16)

1 St Mary’s Rasharkin (bye)

2 St Mary’s Aghagallon v Kickham’s Creggan

3 St Patrick’s Lisburn v Erin’s Own Cargin

4 St Ergnat’s Moneyglass v St Comgall’s Antrim

5 St Joseph’s Glenavy v Tir na Nog

6 Casement’s Portglenone v St James Aldergrove

7 St Enda’s v Con Magees Glenravel

8 All Saint’s Ballymena v Cuchullian’s Dunloy

Qtr finals

A 5 v 3

B 8 v 2

C 4 v 6

D 1 v 7

Semi finals

A v D

C v B

Feile (under-14)

1 St Mary’s Aghagallon (bye)

2 Con Magees Glenravel (bye)

3 St Mary’s Rasharkin v St Joseph’s Glenavy

4 St James Aldergrove v Erin’s Own Cargin

5 Kickham’s Creggan v Tir na Nog

6 St Comgall’s Antrim v All Saint’s Ballymena

7 Casements v Cuchullian’s Dunloy

8 St Ergnat’s Moneyglass v St Enda’s

Qtr finals

A 7 v 2

B 8 v 5

C 1 v 4

D 6 v 3

Semi finals

D v A

C v B

Games played on 3rd, 10th, 24th, 31st March

Central Restaurant Indoor Finals on Sunday

The Central Restaurant Ballycastle North Antrim primary 3 & 4 (under 8) indoor hurling competition finals will be in the main hall in Seven Towers Ballymena on Sunday 17th at 1pm. We will start with the Section 6 finals and finish with Section 1 finals. Each game will consist of two halfs of 7 mins with 2 mins at half time, rules attached.

Section 6 – Eoghan Rua 2 V Oisins 2

Section 5 – Naomh Padraig 3 V Con Magees Glenravel 1

Section 4 – Cuchullains 2 V All Saints

Section 3 – Eoghan rua 1 Naomh Padraig 2

Section 2 – Ruairi Og 1 V Omagh St Endas 1

Section 1 –  McQuillans 1 V Cuchullains 1

Well done to all the U8s that entered this year.

Dromore and Carryduff prepare for Ulster decider

Bank of Ireland U21 Ulster Club Cup Tournament

Paddy McLarnon Cup Final – Sunday February 17th
Dromore (Tyrone) vs Carryduff (Down) 2pm

By Brendan McTaggart

Nine has become two but there can only be one winner.  After six top quality matches, breathtaking football and drama aplenty, where the Paddy McLarnon Cup will reside for 2019 will be decided on Sunday.  Dromore and Carryduff have navigated their way to the decider and by 3:30pm Sunday, we should know who the U21 champions will be.

The tournament as a whole has once again been a monumental success.  Every club who has participated have brought a uniqueness to the tournament that only an Ulster club competition can bring and Sunday promises to be the final the tournament deserves.

We had a chat with both managers as we preview Sunday’s final.

Dromore’s date with destiny a marriage made in heaven…

Dromore’s path to Sunday’s decider has been controlled brilliance.  Coming into their quarter-final against Clann Éireann, they put in a superb performance against a side highly fancied yet it was their semi-final win against Derry champions Magherafelt that proved to be the most eye catching.

Magherafelt were installed as favourites having demolished Enniskillen Gaels in their quarter-final, running in six goals in the process but the Tyrone champions put in another defensively strong yet devastating counter attacking performance to cruise to the decider.

Incredibly, they have half an eye on the 2019 county U21 championship already.  After Sunday, they have three matches next week against Omagh, Carrickmore and Errigal Ciaran.  Four championship matches, one of which an Ulster final, in the space of seven days.  Burn out?  A story for another day but for team manager Paddy Montague, football is put on the back burner.  The Dromore man is getting married to his better half, Rebecca O’Brien on Saturday before making his way to the lough shore on Sunday to be with the squad.  Dedication to his club and a seriously understanding wife-to-be.  When we caught up with Montague during the week, he gave us his own assessment of their impressive semi-final win over Magherafelt: “We were slow in starting against Magherafelt but we regrouped at half time and the lads gave us a reaction in the second half.  I felt we controlled the game after half time and it was a serious shift from the lads but that type of performance won’t be enough for us on Sunday. 

“If we’re going to win it’ll take a complete 60 minute performance.”

Dromore manager Paddy Montaque

The Dromore manager continued by heaping praise on their final opponents: “They’re a good side.  You couldn’t help but be impressed with how they go about their game.  Daniel Guinness, Pierce Laverty and Josh Connery had very good games against St Brigid’s while Owen McCabe was outstanding at 11.

“Ronan Beatty got man of the match and was very accurate from frees.  He wins a lot of ball for them up front and he’s someone we’ll have to be careful of on Sunday.

“They play a lot of free flowing football and that can be hard enough to stop.  We’re trying to come up with plans to counter that on Sunday.”

The Tyrone 2019 U21 championship is already underway and Montague’s side have an action packed week ahead: “It’s bizarre aye but it’s a nice situation to be in.  It’s not everyday you get to an Ulster Final but after Sunday we have to play Omagh on Wednesday, Carrickmore on Friday then Errigan on Sunday to get caught up again.” 

With players involved in the Sigerson Cup this weekend, it’s posed a problem for the Tyrone champions as Montague revealed: “We tried to get the match moved.  It didn’t suit a few of our boys with Sigerson Cup on this Saturday.  It wasn’t possible and you have to respect Creggan club for that.  They run a terrific competition and it’s not easy getting space in the calendar so we’ll just have to deal with it.  It’s put a couple of boys in a position to make a choice but we’re leaving it up to them.”

Montague’s side have already made history but are hungry for more as he concluded: “The whole town’s buzzing.  It’s the first time a Dromore men’s team have reached an Ulster Final and you can tell these boys want it bad.  Training has been class since the semi-final and the whole team are up for it.  Hopefully we’ll do the business on Sunday and bring the Paddy McLarnon Cup back to Tyrone.”

Carryduff hoping to make more history….

Carryduff may only have had one match in the Paddy McLarnon Cup in 2019 but what a match it was.  A blistering hour of pure entertainment that had the large crowd in attendance purring with Daniel Guinness scoring the decisive point at the death to edge the Down men past St Brigid’s.

Brilliant goals, goal saving tackles and attacking play that would do your heart good, Carryduff have won over the neutrals for their attacking play but should it be a surprise?  In the Down championship they travelled to Burren and won before overcoming Bryansford in the county decider.  They were awarded a bye in their quarter-final after the 11th hour withdrawal of Carrickmacross Emmets so having a three month break from competitive football makes their performance against St Brigid’s all the more impressive.

Having fell at the semi-final hurdle to eventual winners Gaoth Dobhair 12 months ago, Carryduff clearly have the hunger to succeed this time round.  When we spoke with team manager DJ Morgan, he started by telling us about their epic semi-final win last day out: “We watched the match back again and it was an enjoyable game of football.  End to end stuff and lived up to the hype.  It was everything everyone thought it would be.

“We went toe to toe and we were fortunate enough in the end to come away with the win.  It was one of those games that as a manager, you wouldn’t have been too disappointed to have come away with a loss.”

Carryduff manager DJ Morgan

Morgan was complimentary of his final opponents when he continued: “Dromore were impressive.  Especially against a Magherafelt side who were probably the pick of the teams after the Quarter-Finals.  The way they took Enniskillen Gaels apart, we all thought they’d be the team to beat but Dromore did a number on them.

“They set themselves up, took the big hits and rode out the early storm and they controlled the second half about five minutes in.

“They work well as a unit.  There’s always one sitting but it’s never the same person.  They’re a well drilled but typical Tyrone team.”

Morgan reported a clean bill of health for his side from the their semi-final win but one of their goal scorers from the county final win over Bryansford misses out: “Rory Reilly is missing for us.  He missed the semi-final as well with a groin strain but he’s been waiting for a while on a shoulder operation.  He’s had trouble with it for the last couple of years where it’s popped in and out and he got the chance last week to get it sorted.  We’re gutted for the lad.”

Carryduff are aiming to become the third club from the Mourne County to claim the U21 trophy, hoping to emulate Burren (2010, 2011) and Bryansford (2013).  Morgan told us it could be a pivotal moment for his club: “It’s massive for the club.  To be in an Ulster final is massive but to win it would be unreal.  You can see the effect its having on the club already.  The senior lads are in preseason at the minute and they’re training harder, they want to be part of this.

“It would give the whole club and give everyone a lift.”

The Tyrone and Down champions dominated the early years of the Paddy McLarnon Cup with the first five championships being split three to two in the Down men’s favour.  Twice the counties champions have played in the decider with one win apiece.  All these stats will count for little on Sunday however.  Both sides are 60 minutes away from claiming a maiden Ulster club tournament.  Will Dromore’s powerful, structured attacking play win the day or will the men from Carryduff produce another blistering performance?  This one promises to be a cracker and I can’t see there being more than a kick of the ball between the sides.  All roads lead to the Staffordstown Road on Sunday.

Red High a cut-above St Louis’

Danske Bank McLarnon Cup Semi-final 

St Louis’, Ballymena 0-11-2-15 Red High, Downpatrick

By Kevin Herron from St. Paul’s, Lurgan

Red High Downpatrick bridged a thirteen year gap and qualified for the Danske Bank McLarnon Cup final for the first time since 2006 with a comfortable 2-15-0-11 victory over St Louis’ Ballymena in Lurgan this evening. 

Two second-half goals from Brandon Boyd was enough to shake off the challenge of Louis’ who trailed 0-08-0-05 at the break. 

St Louis goalkeeper Daniel McNicholl makes a point blank save to deny Red High’s Ronan Connor. Pic by John McIlwaine

Ruairi O’Hare displayed a masterclass of kicking from the placed ball in both halves – Aidan Scullion was accurate with the majority of his throughout but it wasn’t enough as St Louis’ failure to seriously test Red High keeper Eoin Maginn proved costly in the end. 

The semi-final was due to throw-in at 5 o’clock but due to St Louis’ bus breaking down on the way it was delayed almost twenty minutes. 

The Ballymena side showed no signs of letting that hitch distract them early-on and hit the front from the throw-in as Seann Elliott rose highest to claim possession, burst forward and confidently popped the ball over the bar. 

St Louis midfielder Conor Stewart in action against Red High’s Ciaran Watson.
Pic by John McIlwaine

Red High levelled through a converted Ruairi O’Hare free – but Peter Cullen restored St Louis’ lead after riding heavy pressure and keeping his composure to slot over. 

A fantastically converted 45′ by Aidan Scullion had Ballymena 0-03-0-01 ahead by the seventh minute, however the tide was about to turn in favour of the Downpatrick school. 

Midfielder Peter McMullan made space and closed the gap on the 13th minute and midway through the half McMullan picked out middle of the field partner O’Hare; his shot was parried by Daniel McNicholl but referee Mark McGeehan called play back for a free which was converted by O’Hare to level at 0-03-0-03. 

Red High hit the front through Oran Cunningham after Ronan Conor was denied a goal chance by McNicholl and Tom Smyth doubled his sides advantage with a confident point. 

Having gone fifteen minutes without a score Aidan Scullion converted back to back frees to level proceedings for the third time at 0-05-0-05. 

Though at the break it was Red High who were out in front thanks to three successive Ruairi O’Hare scores. 

Two of O’Hare’s three came from converted frees; sandwiched between a follow-up point after a frantic scramble in the St Louis’ area from Tom Savage’s shot as the Downpatrick men edged 0-08-0-05 ahead at the halfway point. 

Red High took a massive step towards victory within three minutes of the restart as Tom Smyth slipped in Brandon Boyd and the centre -half forward rifled past McNicholl to make it 1-08-0-05. 

Aidan Scullion responded from his fourth placed ball of the game – though four unanswered points gave St Louis’ a mountain to climb. 

St Louis Seaan Elliott gets clear of Red High’s Ciaran Watson as goes through for an early score. Pic by John McIlwaine

Tim Prenter claimed two of his sides four, with O’Hare (free) and Tom Smyth claiming the others. 

Ballymena responded with four points of their own however – James McDonnell weaved his way forward and popped the ball over, then Scullion slipped whilst taking a 45′ and the ball fell to Eoghan McGrath whose over the shoulder shot split the posts. 

Scullion converted back to back frees for the second time in the game and suddenly momentum appeared to be with the Antrim side who trailed 1-12-0-10 with little under a quarter of an hour remaining. 

A third Tim Prenter point of the half had Red High back in the ascendancy and ten minutes from time the County Down side escaped their first real nervy moments in defence. 

James McDonnell floated the ball on top of goalkeeper Eoin Maginn – a scramble ensued and Tom Smyth was on hand to mop up the danger and clear off the goal line. 

O’Hare (free) and Scullion traded points in the aftermath, whilst Smyth stretched his sides lead to seven with his third point to make it 1-15-0-11. 

The killer blow for St Louis’ arrived five minutes from time – the Antrim side were caught out at the back and paid the price as Brandon Boyd rifled past Daniel McNicholl to put double figures between the sides (2-15-0-11). 

A consolation goal almost arrived immediately – Peter Cullen fed attacking wing-back James McDonnell though an outstanding save from Eoin Maginn preserved his clean sheet for the evening. 

The Downpatrick side saw out the remaining minutes with ease and booked their place in the Danske Bank McLarnon Cup decider for the first time since 2006. 

St Louis : D McNicholl, A McGrath, E McCusker, C McQuillan, J McDonnell (0-01), C Scullion, P Ferris, C Stewart, P Cullen (0-01), O Connolly, S Elliot (0-01), E McGrath (0-01), A Scullion (0-07, 0-04f; 0-01 45′), E Daly, D Dobbin

Subs : T Patchett for O Connolly (45).

St Patrick’s : E Maginn, J Harbinson, E Rooney, L Guiness, P McMullan (0-01), R Murphy capt, B Boyd (2-00), R O’Hare (0-07, 0-06f), C Watson, N Laverty, O Cunningham (0-01), T Smyth (0-03), T Prenter (0-03), R Connor, T Savage

Subs : C Murray for R Connor (51), R Quinn for T Savage (58), D Donaldson, A Harney for T Prentor (58), T Carson for N Laverty (59)

Referee : Mark McGeehan (Derry)